Sunday, October 29, 2006

San Diego media all over Aztecs

The San Diego press is having a field day with the Cal Poly football team's win over San Diego State on Saturday, a lot like the El Paso media did in 2003 when the Mustangs upset I-A UTEP:

Is it time for Aztecs to take a step back?
North County Times

It has come to this: San Diego State can no longer be considered a serious Division I-A football program.
Anybody for dropping down to Division I-AA so it can compete with the likes of Cal Poly, Sacramento State, Montana and UC Davis? ...

There's new disgrace in town: 'Chuckyball'
San Diego Union-Tribune

... Really, it's almost impossible to fathom. But it would be wrong to call this the worst defeat in SDSU history. Because the Mustangs were better than the Aztecs. And certainly far, far better coached. ...

Gift horse punches Aztecs in the mouth
Daily Aztec

Saturday's game almost left me at a loss for words. I could only think of a few to describe how I felt afterward.
Embarrassed or disappointed. ...

Aztecs kicked while they're down

San Diego Union-Tribune

In assessing the talent gap between his team and Division I-A schools last week, Cal Poly coach Rich Ellerson said he believed the Mustangs had reached a point where they could be competitive against middle-of-the-pack programs from the Mountain West and Western Athletic conferences.
Seems they're pretty good against the bottom feeders, as well. ...

SDSU dropped by I-AA Cal Poly

Daily Aztec

With a game against Division I-AA Cal Poly San Luis Obispo the following weekend, SDSU looked like a team in prime position to put together a winning streak ...

Memorable quotes from Qualcomm

Some of best lines from the Cal Poly football team’s 16-14 victory at San Diego State in Qualcomm Stadium:

“This is what I call a homecoming!”
Tredale Tolver, Cal Poly’s wide receiver and San Diego native, during the team’s postgame celebration. The win came seven days after the Mustangs’ meltdown on homecoming at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
“Well, basketball season starts on Wednesday.”
An unidentified San Diego State staff member moaned as the 1-6 Aztecs left the field.
“… I just started laughing and fell on it as quick as I could.”
Cal Poly safety Kenny Chicoine on the late-game fumble that was bouncing around in front of Mustangs defenders Andre Thomas and Kyle Shotwell. Chicoine beat both players to the ball, setting up the game-winning field goal by Nick Coromelas.
“It came down to one play, 50 times.”
Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson doing his best Yogi Berra impersonation.
“I actually kicked the ground first, so it didn’t feel good at all, initially.”
Cal Poly kicker Nick Coromelas on his wobbly line drive of a field goal that won the game.
“This was one of the toughest days of my career.”
First-year San Diego State head coach Chuck Long, a runner-up for the Heisman as a quarterback at Iowa who coached previously at Oklahoma.
• • •
You can read the game story here for more on the Mustangs' second victory over a I-A opponent in the Ellerson era. ... Here's a follow on Kyle Shotwell's record night. ... Up next for the Mustangs is No. 2 Montana, which is coming off a 23-10 victory over Idaho State.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"Big Three" up next

The “Big Three” portion of Cal Poly’s football schedule is finally upon us.
Division I-A San Diego State on Saturday followed by road games against two top-10 Division I-AA teams — No. 3 Montana and No. 6 North Dakota State.
This is when we find out if last weekend’s meltdown against South Dakota State was a “wakeup call,” as the players are calling it, or if it was a premonition of things to come (aka a late-season tailspin).
You know, the ol’ pretenders or contenders cliché.
Winning 2 of 3 during this stretch would surely put the Mustangs on track for an at-large bid to the playoffs ... barring another catastrophe in the season finale with woeful Savannah State (1-6).
Losing 2 of 3 would put the Mustangs in serious danger of missing the 16-team playoffs considering only two teams with more than three losses have advanced to the postseason since 2003. Eastern Washington went with four losses last season and Montana State advanced with five defeats in 2003.
Both were automatic qualifiers out of the Big Sky Conference.
The Great West Football Conference doesn’t receive an automatic bid.
Time to start pounding down on that panic button yet?
I’ll let you be the judge.

• • •
Saturday @ I-A San Diego State (1-5)
No worries: San Diego State has lost five of six this season, lost to San Jose State by 21 (Poly lost at SJSU 17-7 a week earlier), is down to its third-string quarterback, backup running back and a reader poll on the San Diego Union-Tribune Web site on Thursday suggested I-AA University of San Diego could beat the Aztecs.
Panic mode: Cal Poly is 1-5 against Division I-A teams under Rich Ellerson, is battling plenty of injuries itself and is considerably undersized against the Aztecs. Did I mention Cal Poly is coming off its worst loss in the Ellerson era?

Nov. 4 @ I-AA No. 3 Montana (6-1)

No worries: The Mustangs beat the Grizzlies, at their place, in the 2005 playoffs and Montana is without Walter Payton Award candidate Lex Hilliard because of a knee injury suffered in the preseason.
Panic mode: Cal Poly lost the 10 previous meetings against Montana (including the first meeting in 2005), it could be in the 30s come game time, and the Grizzlies’ lone loss in 2006 was to Iowa (receiving votes for the I-A top 25) in the opener.

Nov. 4 @ I-AA No. 6 North Dakota State (6-1)

No worries: The Mustangs are 3-2 against the Bison all-time, winning the previous two meetings by a combined score of 50-16, and the game is indoors instead of out in the Fargo frost.
Panic mode: North Dakota State’s lone loss came to the Big Ten's Minnesota, 10-9, last week in a game where the Bison outgained the Gophers 380-249 in total yardage, had a touchdown called back and a field goal blocked as time expired (see the video below).

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Playing the blame game

It wasn’t tough to find a Mustang who was willing to take part of the blame Saturday after the Cal Poly football team’s collapse against South Dakota State.
“That was my fault,” Cal Poly quarterback Matt Brennan said of his overthrow of wide receiver Tredale Tolver in the final minute of the 29-28 loss, a pass that was picked off by Tyler Koch to seal the game.
“We broke down on the sideline, didn’t communicate very well and that’s my fault,” Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson said of the same play.
But most of the heat fell on the Mustangs’ once bullet-proof pass defense, which allowed three costly touchdown passes in the fourth quarter.
“There were mistakes obviously,” Cal Poly senior linebacker Kyle Shotwell said. “Where to place blame? I’ll start with me.”
Like Shotwell, everyone on the defense seemed willing to take blame for the defensive struggles, but when asked exactly what went wrong defensively over the final 15 minutes, nobody really had an answer.
At least an answer they wanted to share publicly.
“I don’t really want to talk about it,” Shotwell said. “So many thoughts and emotions are going through my mind right now … It’s really not clear until we see it on film, so I’d rather not comment on that. That’s just going to cause a controversy that I don’t want to do. We’re going to sleep on this a little bit and see how we can fix it tomorrow.”

Check out this story for an in-depth look at what collectively led to Cal Poly’s 22-point collapse:

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I-AA's version of the BCS

The GPI is our BCS.
It doesn’t get quite the publicity, or draw the same rants and raves.
But it’s ours.
To the cult-like followers of Division I-AA football, the Gridiron Power Index is our version of the Division I-A’s Bowl Championship Series standings.
The GPI, like its BCS counterpart, is calculated using the various power, computer and opinion rankings recognized in Division I-AA.
And while it’s not the exact formula the playoff committee uses to determine the 16-team field for the Division I-AA playoffs (that top-secret formula’s been locked up and buried by the NCAA somewhere high in the Appalachian Mountains), it’s been pretty darn close in recent years.
This week’s GPI lists Cal Poly at No. 7 — three spots lower than the Mustangs’ place in this week’s Sports Network media poll.
The Great West Football Conference remains the top-rated conference in the GPI, followed by the Atlantic 10, Gateway and Big Sky.
Montana is No. 1 in the GPI, followed by UMass, Appalachian State, Youngstown State and North Dakota State.
Two of those top-five teams (Montana and North Dakota State) host Cal Poly in November in back-to-back contests that are sure to have all sorts of playoff implications in the West Region.
But if teams aren't listed in the top 16, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a shot at the playoffs.
Teams like North Dakota State, No. 13 Harvard and No. 14 UC Davis aren’t eligible for the postseason. So if your team is in the top 20 toward the end of the season, your team will be in the playoff conversation.
The committee unveils the 16-team field Nov. 19.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs

It’s waaaaaaaaaaaay too early to start talking about the playoffs (cue up your favorite Jim Mora soundbite here).
Ah heck, let’s go ahead and do it any way.
The Cal Poly volleyball team just beat Big West Conference nemesis UC Santa Barbara in three games Saturday to finish off the season sweep and could move up another spot or two in the Top 25 from last week’s ranking of 20.
The Cal Poly football team was ranked fourth heading into Saturday’s bye and could move up another spot after top-ranked New Hampshire’s 42-23 loss to James Madison.
If the fall playoffs were to begin today, both teams could argue they deserve a home date in the opening round.
The football playoffs open Nov. 25. The volleyball postseason kicks off Nov. 30.

Cal Poly’s volleyball team would obviously have a tougher sell with only 16 regional sites (64 teams advance) being named and so many teams playing well in the West Region.
A quick look at last week’s poll shows No. 3 UCLA, No. 4 USC, No. 5 Washington, No. 6 Stanford, No. 7 Cal, No. 11 Hawaii, No. 12 Utah, No. 17 Santa Clara and No. 19 BYU ahead of Cal Poly in the race for a regional bid. (The Mustangs split with Hawaii but did not play any of the other teams ... although the five-game loss at then-ranked No. 19 Pepperdine could come back to haunt their standing in the region.)
Then again, the NCAA says it doesn’t base its decisions on opinion polls and relies heavily on its own RPI formula, so stay tuned on that one.

As things stand right now, the Cal Poly football team would have a better chance at a home site in the first round since eight of the 16 teams get a home game and the Mustangs have been a top-five team for much of the season.
Then again, the Mustangs (5-1, 2-0) don’t exactly know what to expect from the second half of the season.
While the volleyball team has cruised past five of its seven Big West opponents, the Cal Poly football team still has remaining games with a pair of much-improved Great West Football Conference teams (South Dakota State and unbeaten North Dakota State), Division I-A San Diego State and No. 4 Montana. And the latter of those three contests are on the road.
So again, it’s way too early to be talking about the playoffs.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Maniacs out in full force

Cal Poly head football coach Rich Ellerson called it the “best student crowd I’d ever seen.”
More than 8,400 fans in all, with the most vociferous of them all (a.k.a. the students) jam packed into the bleachers beyond both end zones for the sold-out showdown with rival UC Davis.
The Mustang Maniacs were just that, maniacs.
Chanting, singing, dancing along with the band, serenading the Mustangs to a 23-17 victory in Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
The green sea of fans booed and heckled the UC Davis players and their Aggie Pack supporters … even taking it a bit too far, cheering when UC Davis quarterback Jon Grant had the wind knocked out of him on a first-half carry – a low point in what otherwise was an impressive showing by Cal Poly’s sometimes dormant fan base.
“It was great, just great,” Ellerson said. “You know, we’re way over there (in front of the empty west concourse) and it’s still loud. They were definitely into it tonight.”

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A special bond

Cal Poly’s weekend tribute to the 1960 football team helped bring peace and closure to the survivors, friends and family members who were devastated by the Toledo plane crash that killed 18 of their own 46 years ago.
For Norman Gomes, a Cal Poly Hall of Fame wrestler who was friends with many of the players, the recently unveiled Mustang Memorial Plaza symbolizes the “special bond” that took place between those lost, those who survived and those who carry on their legacy.
It also shows Cal Poly’s commitment to remembering this unforgettable part of the university’s history, he said.
“A survivor stood with a family (member) of each deceased during the unveiling and many were shocked to find that many of the survivors harbored guilt over the years for having survived while some did not,” Gomes wrote in a recent e-mail.
The unveiling took place Sept. 29 at the new entrance to Alex G. Spanos Stadium and Mustang Memorial Field, a few hours before the entire team was inducted into the university’s athletic Hall of Fame.
Last Saturday, Mustang Memorial Plaza was unveiled to the public for the first time.
The 15,000-square-foot plaza is built around Roy Harris’ bronze mustang sculpture entitled “Unbridled Spirit.” The statue is the centerpiece of a permanent memorial that includes 18 pillars dedicated to each of the 16 players, booster and team manager who died in the crash.
The copper pillars, which display granite plaques engraved with photos and biographies of each individual, puts off a soft beam of light that can seen throughout the stadium on game nights.
“The Cal Poly families came together,” Gomes concludes, “and as the solar lights on the monuments light up each evening there is peace in the 1960s family.”

Rivalry week is here

No. 5 vs. No. 16.
State school vs. a UC.
A top-five offense going up against a top-five defense.
Great West Football Conference foes Cal Poly vs. UC Davis, the two longtime rivals who split the league title a year ago.
At sold-out Alex G. Spanos Stadium on Saturday.
Does it get any better than this?
If you’re one of the 8,000 or so fans who have a ticket for this game, it should be a good one.
It’s a matchup of one of Division I-AA’s best defense units against a pass-happy Aggies squad that is in the final year of transition from Division II but already looks like a playoff-caliber program.
Cal Poly’s defense is ranked third in the division in yards allowed and ranked No. 1 against the pass and No. 1 in points allowed.
UC Davis, which isn’t officially included in the Division I-AA statistical categories until next season, would rank fourth in passing, 12th in total offense and No. 21 in scoring if included.
Winner goes home with the Golden Horseshoe.